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Everything you need to know about Week 9 in the NFL

WEEI
November 05, 2018 - 10:50 am

By JOHN ANDERSEN

In case you weren't paying attention, here is Week 9 in a nutshell:

BYE: Colts, Bengals, Giants, Eagles, Cardinals, Jaguars

49ers 34, Raiders 3: Where were you when Nick Mullens lit the world on fire?

That was the joke seemingly anything with a pulse was cracking on Twitter and various podcasts following Nick Mullens’ debut. To be fair, it appears everyone independently came up with the same comedic bit; no copycats to report. One group that seemed to attach themselves to one another rather quick was the "Why even pay Jimmy G?" crowd. After all, Nick Mullens, a second-year, undrafted QB, was able to complete 75 percent of his passes and throws three TDs, so why devote a quarter of your cap room to someone else? Well, QB market, yadda yadda, athleticism, yadda yadda. The bottom line is Kyle Shanahan draws up a hell of a gameplan, but that doesn’t mean Mullens shouldn’t get credit. Mullens made some great passes independent of who his coach is. But it was an all-around win for the 49ers, as some of their defensive linemen like Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas, who are still looking to prove that they’ll be worthy of second contracts, showed Derek Carr the turf quite a few times. George Kittle, in particular, turned in an amazing individual performance, hauling in a pass with one hand in traffic without breaking stride and taking it 71 yards before breaking the plane on the very next play.

Bears 41, Bills 9: Do I defend the Bills defense again this week? I do.

Mitch Trubisky, for once, actually turned in numbers that reflect the type of QB he’s been this season: 12-for-20 passing for 135 yards, an interception and a lost fumble. Trubisky continues to display a gross inability to hit open receivers with little to no pressure on him. Had it not been for short fields given Buffalo’s pee-wee offensive gameplan that cornered itself into letting Nathan Peterman throw the 49 times (that stat should slap you in the face) the Bears wouldn’t have put close to 41 on the scoreboard. Chicago’s offense didn’t even break 200 yards of total offense; the defense dominated an offense that could’ve been dominated by a team full of Air Buds, except all the dogs that played Air Bud are sadly no longer with us. The Bills offense literally makes me think of dead dogs. Direct all complaints to Brian Daboll and Sean McDermott.

Panthers 42, Buccaneers 28: Christian McCaffrey might break 2000 scrimmage yards this year

Although Ryan Fitzpatrick flirted with another comeback, a 35-7 lead for the Panthers was a little too much even for a future Hall of Famer like Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Panthers offense is the offensive version of Jackson Pollock’s easel; if you time lapsed an X’s and O’s chart of Carolina’s offensive plays it would be lines going in each and every direction with no rhyme or reason. The quality of defenses the Panthers face the rest of the way leaves all McCaffrey owners such as myself in a state of intense salivation: Steelers, Lions, Seahawks, Bucs again, Falcons, Saints twice, and Browns. You can pencil McCaffrey in for 2000 scrimmage yards and the Panthers for at least the first NFC Wild Card spot, depending on how those Saints matchups turn out.

Chiefs 37, Browns 21: Browns achieve statement loss versus Chiefs

Baker Mayfield was unable to match Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense, but the statement loss comes from the play of the Browns’ defense. It wasn’t amazing or anything, as missed tackles plagued the unit, but Cleveland’s defense truly did force a few mistakes out of Mahomes and made some timely stops. It was the type of performance that would’ve been the difference in a shootout like it was when Mahomes played the Patriots a couple weeks ago. But this week was the first for the Browns offense in whatever system new OC Freddie Kitchens is running following the timely ousting of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, which would be true if the ousting happened two years ago. Regardless there was still decent play from Mayfield and definitely from Nick Chubb. More noteworthy is that Gregg Williams’ first order of business as interim head coach was to bench left tackle Desmond Harrison in favor of former 2nd-overall pick Greg Robinson. Robinson looked like an elite pass-blocker, even when matched up with Dee Ford. That’s a great sign moving forward as far as protecting Mayfield goes.

Dolphins 13, Jets 6: Sam Darnold leading the same league that employs Blake Bortles in interceptions

Darnold *only* threw four interceptions in this game. It easily could’ve been seven or eight, as the Dolphins’ secondary dropped a few. But what the Phins’ defensive backfield lacked in interception they made up for in interceptions, as the win came via a Jerome Baker pick six. The line battle was up in the air coming in with the Jets’ OL and Dolphins’ DL being the pinnacles of mediocrity, but alas someone had to win the battle, and in this one it was the experience on the Dolphins’ side. The D is what gave the Dolphins the win, as The Heist has run out of tricks and merely matched the two field goals Darnold was able to muster up on the other side. Last season I said the Titans were the worst 5-4 team ever, but the 2018 Dolphins have blown that take away.

Steelers 23, Ravens 16: Big Ben undefeated when he fakes his own death

Ben Roethlisberger was presumed dead after he experienced the full force of an anvil of a defensive tackle falling directly on his throwing shoulder. The event was so dire that Ben even missed a play, but backup QB Josh Dobbs walked right in and made the play of the game from his own goal line: a 22-yard dart into a tight window while the Steelers were hanging on to a seven-point lead. James Conner also continued his streak of turning any defense he plays into a Chernobyl wasteland regardless of the defense’s quality. Conner, teaming up with Joe Flacco’s inability to play his position, not even looking to a wide-open Lamar Jackson at one point (hmmm...), combined to effectively eliminate the Ravens from AFC North contention. Baltimore sits at 4-5 heading into their bye week, 1-3 in their own division, and still have to play the Bengals, Falcons, Chiefs and Chargers before they can even sniff the playoffs in the AFC.

Vikings 24, Lions 9: Stafford sacked 11 times

The Lions offense post-Golden Tate looked like a dog lover’s face when they read that Bills offense analogy from earlier. Pure horror. It wouldn’t be fair to say Stafford held the ball too long on every single sack and not give credit to Danielle Hunter, Stephen Weatherly and Tom “Sebastian Thunderbucket” Johnson for toying with Taylor Decker and the Lions’ OL all game. But there’s something to be said about Golden Tate departing and taking the short pass element of the Lions’ offense with him, as Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are more deep-drop, let the route develop wide receivers, which requires time. I don’t even entirely blame Stafford for the lateral to Kerryon Johnson that resulted in a scoop-and-score for Danielle Hunter. Stafford placed the ball right on Johnson’s hands and a successful lateral meant more yards plus Stafford could block one of the three oncoming defenders; Kerryon Johnson just dropped the ball. And now the Lions drop to 3-5 in a division where likely only one team, maybe two, will make the playoffs.

At least the Lions sat up and lost with respect.

Falcons 38, Redskins 14: Falcons win three in a row, reach 4-4

It just takes Matt Ryan two years with a new offensive coordinator. Even Kyle Shanahan’s codex was a bit of a puzzle for Ryan in 2015, but 2016 came around the Falcons’ offense scored a lot of points that everyone will forget about. The Falcons decimated the Redskins defense, which is one of the best in the NFL but surely won’t get the attention it deserves after this game. This week Washington traded for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and now features PFF’s No. 1 and No. 2 graded safeties on the same defense. As we saw with last week’s Panthers-Ravens game, sometimes a great offense just lights up a great defense. There are too many weapons on the Atlanta offense and not enough consistency from Washington’s to match it. The win brings the Falcons to 4-4, and they have quite a few favorable matchups the rest of the way. But even a 10-6 record may not be enough to make the playoffs in the NFC. They’ll undoubtedly have to win some games against teams like the Saints, Panthers, or Packers to have a chance.

Texans 19, Broncos 17: Vance Joseph settles for a 51-yard field goal

Case Keenum had possibly his best game as a Bronco going up against a Texans defense whose front seven is a well-known monolith but also has Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph redeeming their 2017 stinkers with career years. When it came time for Brandon McManus to attempt a game-winning field goal, Vance Joseph didn’t even try to get closer despite there being plenty of time on the clock to do so. Accuracy was more of the issue than distance, but getting the ball closer wouldn’t have decreased the chances of the kick going through. The kick may not have even been necessary had Courtland Sutton (new Demaryius Thomas) not dropped a likely TD pass on a go route earlier in the game. Speaking of which, Demaryius Thomas (old Demaryius Thomas) got off to a hot start with three quick catches for 61 yards but was blanked by his former teammates the rest of the day.

Chargers 25, Seahawks 17: Chargers the sneakiest 6-2 team in the history of 6-2 teams

The Chargers played the hits in this one as Rivers-to-Allen with a bit of Melvin Gordon proved an effective remedy for Seattle. Desmond King’s pick-six of Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter put the game almost out of reach, but just within reach for David Moore to drop the touchdown pass that would’ve provided the Seahawks the 2-point attempt to tie the game at the end. The Seahawks’ run-first philosophy kind of tanked the operation as that philosophy is dependent on the run, hence the use of the word “run.” Chris Carson has been the typical harbinger of the ever elusive “run,” but Carson was notably hobbled in the first half before being limited in the second. The Chargers go to 6-2 with the first AFC Wild Card spot theirs to lose, assuming they don’t catch the Chiefs in the AFC West. Meanwhile, the Seahawks fall to 4-4 but stay in the fight for the second NFC Wild Card spot as they approach a brutal stretch of games that includes matchups with the Rams, Packers, and Panthers.

Saints 45, Rams 35: Saints hand Rams their first loss of 2018

At some point Michael Thomas will commonly be considered one of, if not the, best wide receiver in the NFL. Thomas went over 200 yards in this game and was a crucial reason the Saints kept this one out of reach for the Rams. Like the Chiefs-Browns entry from earlier, a couple stalled drives and a pick for Jared Goff may not have been the difference against any other NFC team that isn’t the Saints, but in a shootout against an offensive powerhouse like the Saints those few mistakes are enough to lose the game. These teams are likely to duke it out for home-field advantage the rest of the regular season, but the margin of error for the Rams just got that much smaller, while the Saints’ margin is at least a game wide. Major advantage given the Saints’ remaining schedule.

Patriots 31, Packers 17: Brady finally beats Rodgers, officially GOAT

I’d like to take a moment to induct jokes ironically made in light of “Chris Hogan played lacrosse” into the “That isn’t funny anymore, and it never was but I let you have your fun” hall of fame.

Anyways, Tom Brady can FINALLY rest easy as he directly defeated Aaron Rodgers, the previous GOAT. The play where Brady looked off Rodgers, who had dropped into a cover one zone, and hit a streaking Brady, who had beat Rodgers’ press, for a big touchdown particularly stood out.

Rodgers was unable to overcome the apparent fact that he has more receivers that he isn’t on the same page with than Brady does. The Patriots specialize in one thing the Packers have lacked for years: coaching. Belichick and McDaniels leaned on the run game and trickery to offset the lack of chemistry and keep Green Bay off balance, whereas Mike McCarthy wouldn’t alter his gameplan if a running back with 4.6 yards per attempt hit him in the face. McCarthy continues to leave his receivers on islands and throw the weight of the world on Aaron Rodgers to make it work. Well, this year Rodgers isn’t making it work. If the Packers miss the playoffs, there’s a real chance McCarthy is fired. It won’t happen, but if the 49ers lose out and Kyle Shanahan is fired I would give my good eye for Shanahan to be paired with Rodgers.

MNF: Titans @ Cowboys 8:15pm (ESPN & Westwood One)

Thank you to whatever deity is listening for providing me the opportunity to not have to write about the Dallas Cowboys this week. FOR THE RECORD: Marcus Mariota regained feeling in his throwing hand this week. Titans don’t look back, toast the Cowboys, and cruise to a 10-6 record.

John Andersen is an award-winning NFL journalist and has written books on Billy Volek and Devin Smith ...maybe. You can follow John on Twitter @_JohnAndersen.

Related: Reimer: Brady vs. Rodgers somewhat unfair

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